School hires FBI agent to monitor student social media activity as snooping increases

School districts across the country are increasingly employing snooping software or special cyber investigators to track students’ social media activates in an attempt to crack down on bullying and illegal activities.

But the practice of tracking what students say online, off-campus is a legally gray area that can result lawsuits over student privacy rights, as well as expenses for special staff or student tracking software, CNN reports.

The Huntsville, Alabama school district, for example, hired a former FBI agent on a $157,000 annual salary in January to lead a team of three staffers who track what students post on Facebook, Twitter and Reddit and other sites, according to WHNT.

So far, the team has uncovered threatening or inappropriate online comments that lead to the expulsion of 14 students.

After two students in the Los Angeles suburb of Glendale committed suicide in recent years, district officials there hired a tech firm at $40,500 per year to track what students post publicly online. Chris Frydrych, CEO of the firm Geo Listening, told CNN the software has already helped one student who posted on social media about ending his life.

“We were able to save a life,” Glendale superintendent Richard Sheehan said. “It’s just another avenue to open up a dialogue with parents about safety.”

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